There is one thing you can do that will likely transform your relationship right now, and it doesn’t depend on your partner. Whew! Isn’t that a relief? But it may be harder than you think. At least it was for me.
What you can do is this. Think about what you do in the relationship that probably drives your partner crazy. Separate it from what your partner does that makes you crazy, i.e., I wouldn’t do x, y, or z, if you didn’t do a, b, or c first.
I want to share with you how this happened in my relationship after I had been studying about personal responsibility in relationships for awhile. Like many people, I was an expert on my husband’s shortcomings. Being a therapist only made me an expert with a capital E. One of his shortcomings was that he didn’t ever seem available to talk things out with me when we had a problem. His avoidance of conflict made me wonder if we would ever be able to resolve any issue since we never talked in a healthy way about anything.
But what happened changed my relationship with him and my awareness of the power of taking personal responsibility. This happened about 15 years ago so all the details have become illusive other than I was sitting in the hot tub, and Dave was standing next to the hot tub annoyed with me as I was clearly annoyed with him. I remember thinking that he had a point, but that I would never have said what I did if he hadn’t said something else first. Like I said, this was a long time ago.
But I remember what I did next like it was yesterday. I decided to only take ownership of my side of the argument. I told him about my awareness and did not add anything about what he had said or did. I whole heartedly apologized and expressed understanding about how I understood that what I said would be upsetting to him.
My fantasy was that he would then feel free to take ownership of his side of the argument, and that he would say something similar to me complete with his own apology. He didn’t. He thanked me, and he walked away. It was all I could do to not climb out of the tub, follow him, and let him know that I was still waiting for his ownership, his apology.
It’s probably good that I was in the tub and the effort seemed too big. What did happen, however, is that Dave started to become more available to have conversations with me about things that were problems in our relationship. This was big. In a recent tiff, he emailed me, “I’m sure we can mend things. We’re getting pretty good at that.” I almost reached through cyberspace and gave him a hug.